State Department Announces That Great Firewall For The US; Blocks Chinese Apps & Equipment

from the this-is-not-good dept

Forget banning TikTok, the Trump State Department just suggested it wants to basically ban China from the internet. Rather than promoting an open internet and the concept of openness, it appears that under this administration we're slamming the gates shut and setting up the Great American Firewall for the internet. Under the guise of what it calls the Clean Network to Safeguard America, last night Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a program that is full of vague statements, that could, in practice, fragment the internet.

This is incredibly disappointing on multiple levels. While other countries -- especially China, but also Iran and Russia -- have created their own fragmented internet, the US used to stand for an open internet across the globe. Indeed, for whatever complaints we had about the State Department during the Obama administration (and we had many complaints), its commitment to an open internet was very strong and meaningful. That's clearly now gone. The "Clean Network to Safeguard America" consists of five programs that can be summed up as "fuck you China."

  • Clean Carrier: To ensure untrusted People’s Republic of China (PRC) carriers are not connected with U.S. telecommunications networks. Such companies pose a danger to U.S. national security and should not provide international telecommunications services to and from the United States.
  • Clean Store: To remove untrusted applications from U.S. mobile app stores. PRC apps threaten our privacy, proliferate viruses, and spread propaganda and disinformation. American’s most sensitive personal and business information must be protected on their mobile phones from exploitation and theft for the CCP’s benefit.
  • Clean Apps: To prevent untrusted PRC smartphone manufacturers from pre-installing –or otherwise making available for download – trusted apps on their apps store. Huawei, an arm of the PRC surveillance state, is trading on the innovations and reputations of leading U.S. and foreign companies. These companies should remove their apps from Huawei’s app store to ensure they are not partnering with a human rights abuser.
  • Clean Cloud: To prevent U.S. citizens’ most sensitive personal information and our businesses’ most valuable intellectual property, including COVID-19 vaccine research, from being stored and processed on cloud-based systems accessible to our foreign adversaries through companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.
  • Clean Cable: To ensure the undersea cables connecting our country to the global internet are not subverted for intelligence gathering by the PRC at hyper scale. We will also work with foreign partners to ensure that undersea cables around the world aren’t similarly subject to compromise.
So, take the talk of banning Huawei and ZTE on the networking side, and the rumblings about banning TikTok on the app side, and multiply by everything.

I certainly understand the arguments that certain Chinese companies and technologies may be conducting surveillance on Americans (even though investigations into both Huawei and TikTok haven't shown anything out of the ordinary), but this approach is incredibly short-sighted. First of all, it goes against the basic American stance on openness, especially regarding the internet. That just damages what little moral high ground we had left to stand on regarding the internet.

Second, all this does is justify the Chinese approach. Make no mistake about it, China will turn around and use this to justify its (much worse) practices, by saying "look, even the Americans filter out "foreign" apps and services." Giving the Chinese ammo like that is so incredibly short-sighted.

Third, so much of American technology is still made in China -- including pretty much every electronic gadget and IOT and "smart" device that fills everyone's homes these days. This is going to backfire in so many ways. The trade war and tariffs have already hit parts of the technology industry hard, and this move will certainly lead to retaliation in all sorts of ways -- potentially having a massive impact on American firms being able to make use of factories and technology from China. That will have ripple effects throughout the economy and will likely limit certain innovation possibilities. Indeed, this may even allow Chinese firms to justify abusing technology to do the kinds of surveillance people are now freaked out about.

Fourth, it will allow China to expand its influence elsewhere in the world, showing how the US can't be trusted and plays favorites with its own companies through protectionism.

In short, this is the kind of short-sighted policy that we're all too familiar with from the Trump Administration, but which will do significant damage to the US in the process.

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Filed Under: apps, censorship, china, clean network, great firewall, mike pompeo, networking equipment, technology, us
Companies: huawei, tiktok


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2020 @ 5:39pm

    Re: 'Stop trying to save lives damnit, we have profits to make!'

    That's a rather damning inclusion there, lumping in 'vaccination research related to a global pandemic' as 'valuable intellectual property', as though the money to be made from it it matters more than the lives that it could save, but I suppose it's also entirely consistent so...

    BINGO. We got a winner folks! The USA could careless if most of it's own citizens died from COVID-19. Let alone the citizens of other countries. Money is all the USA cares about. Anyone telling you different is either a complete idiot or one of the USA's owner class. In case the message hasn't rung home yet: The rest of the world can die as far as the USA is concerned. The rest of the world's concepts of morality, decency, and ethics do not apply in the USA. There is no limit to the greed of the USA and any objection to it is viewed as a mental defect by it's citizens. Corruption is the name of their ideology and greed, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, and pride are their pillars of support. With wrath quickly becoming the seventh. Quit assuming otherwise.

    As for the general order this is going to blow up in their faces spectacularly, as given how much tech and other products the US gets from china the administration just handed the country a huge bargaining lever, as they can simply point out that if america doesn't want anything to do with china then great, china will look elsewhere and the US can figure out what to do without them.

    China could do that, but it would provide no benefit to them. If anything China has more to gain by pointing out such hypocrisy to the world, claiming it's doing "better" despite the US' actions, and that others should take precautions around US products now because of it.

    Agreed, China doesn't need the US, but dropping the US over something trivial like this would make China look worse by comparison. For example, all of those belt and road countries would very quickly find out just how much of a risky debt they've taken on really is. Piss off the lords of China in a shouting match and get cut off completely? Pretty hard to pay back that debt now isn't it? Might even keep a few deals from going through....

    Trump's pissing match with china, indifference to anything that doesn't impact him personally and his need to have some great big boogie-man to scare his cultists into line just screwed the country yet again it looks like.

    The worse thing is the huge loophole he's trying to make for government censorship / bullying. If this were to go through, it would be ridiculously easy to ban / takedown any app the government had issue with. (Oh. That's not a trusted encryption app. It's a PRC app in disguise! Better get rid of it Apple. smirk) Of course it also allows the government to rip products off of store shelves. (Because how else do you prevent a manufacturer from installing anything on a device they manufactured????) This will be abused as well.

    The good news is that it has no chance of surviving a first amendment challenge. The bad news is that it could require a first amendment challenge in the first place. Land of the enslaved, and home of the fearful indeed.


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